The world of dating can be tough to navigate, and breakups are even harder — especially if you're trying to move on from a past relationship. You might be having a great week and feeling optimistic about your love life when, suddenly, you get a text from your ex. And there goes that sense of closure. After getting that message, your first thought is probably: Why is my ex texting me? Or depending on why you split, maybe it’s: WTF do they want now? It’s almost impossible to know. I mean, even if you asked them directly, you might not get the full picture. Still, the heart wants what it wants — and, in this case, what it wants is some clarity.
So, what’s the real reason behind your ex texting you? “The likeliest possibility is that they are reflecting about the relationship and are missing you,” psychologist Samantha Rodman explained to Huffington Post. “Most of the time this would be for romantic or sexual reasons, but sometimes they might just want to be friends again.” To help you figure out which category your ex falls into, relationship experts explain the best ways to navigate texts from them.
The Meaning Of The Text Depends On Where You Stand With Your Ex
According to Rachel MacLynn, psychologist, matchmaker, and founder of the Vida Consultancy, if you’re trying to figure out what it means when your ex texts you, the first thing you should consider is how you parted ways. "The meaning of the texts will be partly dependent on the length of time that’s passed since the breakup and who instigated the breakup," MacLynn explains. Revisiting your breakup might not sound like the most fun way to spend your time, but it’s a necessary step if you’re considering reconnecting with an ex. (BTW, if thinking about your split is too painful, it’s probably a good idea to leave their text unanswered.)
Bela Gandhi, president at Smart Dating Academy, adds that a text from an ex “could mean a variety of different things.” In other words, a “u up?” text will mean something different than a “hey! congrats on the new job” text. Similarly, a text from someone who broke your heart last week will mean something different than a text from an ex you dated years ago.
Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee can also factor into the meaning of the text. "If you're the one who broke up with your ex, they might be heartbroken still and miss you," Gandhi explains. However, if your former flame was the one who ended things with you, their intent might be more casual. So, if you’re asking yourself, Why is my ex texting me when he broke up with me? or Why is my ex replying to my IG stories when she ended things?, it’s probably not as deep as you might originally think. According to Gandhi, they might be bored, miss you, or simply "feel guilty for breaking up with you.” We’re all only human.
Set Texting Boundaries With Your Ex
Before responding to any texts from an ex, it’s a good idea to set some boundaries. Are you and your ex planning on staying friends? Are you considering getting back together? What kind of topics are you willing to discuss? How often would you like to stay in touch? Whether you’re able to decode the meaning of their texts or not, these guidelines will help you have some peace of mind, which we all could use when an ex comes back into the picture.
According to Dr. Alexandra Solomon, clinical assistant professor and staff therapist at Northwestern University and author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, texts from an ex might just mean that "the breakup was a fuzzy one." They might want closure or feel like you two have unfinished business.
You can typically gauge whether your ex is fishing for some clarity or testing the boundaries of your new status as exes by the content of their message. Directionless, ambiguous texts blur the lines of your post-breakup relationship and, at the end of the day, are pretty much meaningless. Gandhi explains these types of texts are an indicator that your ex "might just be breadcrumbing you with no intention of actually doing anything" by giving you random “crumbs” of attention to keep you interested without a clear purpose. Unless your ex’s text has a clear, direct question (or an invite to meet up and talk things over), there’s a good chance that it’s a case of breadcrumbing.
Another red flag when it comes to communicating with your ex is late-night conversations. Gandhi recommends taking note of the time of day they reach out. Any text past 10 p.m. is likely a sign that they’re just looking to hook up or sending a drunk text — neither of which is good for closure.
Is Your Ex Texting You To Get Back Together?
Again, it all depends on the context and content of their message. "If they're texting you that they want to hang out, that they miss you, that they've made a mistake ... then they want to get back together," Gandhi tells Elite Daily. So, messages explicitly saying that they have regrets about the split or that they want to see you should be taken at face value — barring your ex having a history of manipulative behavior.
If you suspect your ex does want to get back together, but they haven’t made their intentions clear, try asking them directly. "You could say something like, 'It seems like we’ve been texting a lot lately, and I just want to check in with you,'" Dr. Solomon suggests. Figuring out what’s going on in their head when they text you might make things clearer. It could also open up a conversation about what you both want, need, and expect from one another. The ~magic~ of clear communication.
Dr. Solomon recognizes that approaching this convo is easier said than done, but it’s still worth the effort. "I think there is immense pressure to be chill and drama-free, and that pressure can keep you from having a conversation like this," Solomon adds. Plus, that pressure could be getting in the way of you actually feeling chill and drama-free. Asking your ex to clarify their messages is a completely valid request. Confusion is the last thing you need when you're trying to heal from a past relationship, and you both deserve to know where you stand with each other.
Not Interested In Getting Back Together? Let Them Know
You might be holding out hope that they want to rekindle the relationship, but you also might consider this chapter closed. If you know you want to move on, MacLynn says texting your ex back is fine long as you make "your intentions clear.” She notes that "texting is notorious for misinterpretation," so to avoid any mixed signals and unnecessary hurt feelings, be as straightforward as possible. She recommends sending something like, "I’m glad you’re doing OK and that we can be friends."
But, at that point, the texts should probably end. Constant communication with an ex you have no interest in can be confusing, and it can prevent closure for you both. "Keeping a text thread going is a way of avoiding the grief that comes when we really accept that a relationship is over," Dr. Solomon says. So if you're looking to get over your old boo and move on with your life, regular contact isn't the way to start the healing process.
Cutting off communication can feel mean, but it’s probably the best move for both of you in the long run. Gandhi even says that a harsher message may be in order, especially if your ex is not getting the hint. She recommends sending something like, "Please respect my wishes, and please don't contact me.” That should set a clear, strict boundary. But if the texts continue to come in, the block feature exists for a reason.
Getting a text from your ex is always going to throw you off a little bit. It might make you emotional and upset, or it may just surprise you. No matter what your immediate reaction is, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’re going to wonder what the text means. (We’ve all been there.) And although certain clues can be deciphered from your ex's text messages, keep in mind that if someone wants to be with you, they'll probably make it clear. At the end of the day, you have to prioritize your emotional wellbeing — whether that means responding to the text and asking them for clarification or leaving them on read and hitting block. You do you, but remember, the more time you spend texting your ex, the less time you have to text someone new.
Samantha Rodman, psychologist
Rachel MacLynn, psychologist, matchmaker, and founder of the Vida Consultancy in London
Bela Gandhi, president at Smart Dating Academy
Dr. Alexandra Solomon, clinical assistant professor and staff therapist at Northwestern University and author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want
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